Sochi Olympics 2014: Austria Roster Analysis

Image courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Editor’s Note: While the Olympic Hockey at Sochi is well underway, we will continue with our analysis of each roster – we started it, it’s only right that we finish it!

The eve of the World’s greatest international hockey competition is upon us.  As teams jet into Sochi, make their final preparations, and strategise for the tough road ahead, Ice Nation UK is going to break down each and every roster in attendance.

Keep checking in over the next couple of days as we bring you the very best in analysis, and you might learn a thing or two about how the best hockey nations on the planet stack up against each other “on paper”.

Next up: making their Olympic debuts, Austria.

THE ROSTER

Forwards (14):

  • Image courtesy of thebreakaway.net

    Michael Grabner

  • Raphael Herburger
  • Thomas Hundertpfund
  • Matthias Iberer
  • Thomas Koch
  • Andreas Kristler
  • Manuel Latusa
  • Brian Lebler
  • Daniel Oberkofler
  • Michael Raffl
  • Thomas Raffl
  • Oliver Setzinger
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Daniel Welser

Defence (8):

  • Mario Altmann
  • Florian Iberer
  • Andre Lakos
  • Robert Lukas
  • Thomas Pöck
  • Matthias Trattnig
  • Stefan Ulmer
  • Gerhard Unterluggauer

Goal (3):

  • Bernhard Starkbaum
  • René Swette
  • Fabian Weinhandl

FORWARDS

Austria Forwards Analysis – Scoring Stats

In order to analyse the forward selections, the first port of call is quite obviously their scoring numbers.  Hockey is won by the team that scores more goals, so what better way to evaluate the players whose job it is to do just that?

The following table displays each forward named to Austria, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

AUS FWD - STATS

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • With only three NHL players on the roster, the star power on this Austrian squad is obviously lacking, but this is the team’s first Olympic Games – their qualification coming at the expense of their cousins in Germany – so just being present is a huge accomplishment.
  • Two of the three NHLers they have are good to very good, Vanek being one of the more reliable goalscorers in the league and Grabner providing some secondary scoring for the Islanders.  With 18 points in 46 NHL games, Michael Raffl is also looking like he could at least be a bottom six contributor.
  • As for the rest of the roster, Setzinger stands out on this list for his scoring, but that was done in the Swiss NLA, a decent European league but still probably only 5th in the global ranking of global hockey leagues at best.  The guy is not without talent though.
  • Some of their players do have experience in North America and the Swedish Allsvenskan, but overall they mostly play in their home country, a league at the bottom end of the scale for Olympic nation domestic leagues.  This likely means that most of them will struggle with the pace of the game and the capabilities of more experienced countries.

Austria Forwards Analysis – Deployment and Usage

The next table displays the usage of each forward on their respective NHL teams, including their relative ranking on their team in terms of Time On Ice.  Those who are top 3 on their respective teams in any of the disciplines can likely be considered to be highly trusted and valued players by their coach.

This is not a perfect measure by any means — some players are probably unfairly punished due to the depth on their teams — but it does give some indication as to how Austria might be expected to use them.  Click the image to enlarge.

AUS FWD - TOI

Statistics courtesy of NHL.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • This further illustrates how far ahead of their Austrian peers Vanek and Grabner are; not only are they in the NHL, they are trusted by their coach to play significant minutes – on the PK for Grabner, and at 5v5 and 5v4 for Vanek.  These aren’t just bit-players.
  • Michael Raffl might only be 6th on the Flyers for PK TOI, but he still averages over a minute and a half per game, not far off Grabner’s number despite the latter placing 3rd on his team.

Austria Forwards Analysis – Underlying Numbers

Finally, let’s dig a bit deeper and explore these players’ underlying numbers.  Thanks to Robert Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, we can track how players are doing in terms of their possession game, as well as the kind of competition they are taking on.  The following chart displays this information for the Austria forwards.

AUS FWD - PUC

  • The bluer the bubble, the better the player’s Corsi number; the x-axis displays the offensive zone start percentage, and the y-axis is the quality of competition.
  • There are only three NHLers on the roster, so not a whole lot to show here.  Thomas Vanek is struggling by this metric despite receiving heavy offensive zonestarts; he is taking on very tough competition however.  Michael Grabner is playing a tough minutes defensive role for the team, which limits his offensive contributions but he is performing relatively well, and Michael Raffl has looked good in his first full NHL stint.

The following table displays each forward, their individual Fenwick For Percentages (shot attempts) and PDO numbers (on-ice shooting and save percentages added together, an expression of “luck”), the FF% and PDO numbers for their respective NHL clubs, and their clubs’ NHL Conference rank at the time of writing.

AUS FWD - ADV

Statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater.com; table created by Chris Hext.
  • This shows much the same information as the Player Usage Chart above.  Grabner is a very nice two-way player, at least this season, and is also suffering from poor luck on the ice (shooting and save percentage).
  • Michael Raffl is showing extremely well, looking like a genuine NHL player in an admittedly small-ish sample size.
  • Thomas Vanek is having a strange season, one where he is performing well by the box cars but is struggling to right the ship when it comes to possession play, something his team as a whole isn’t that bad at.

DEFENSE

Austria Defense Analysis – Scoring Stats

The following table displays each defender named to Team Austria, followed by their position, age, their statistics for each of the four seasons leading up to the Olympics, their totals, and the averages.

Seasons coloured GREEN are those spent entirely or partially in a league other than the NHL.  Scoring totals include those obtained while playing in other domestic leagues around the globe, both professional and junior (if applicable).  Click the image to enlarge it.

AUS DEF - STATS

 

  • With no players outside Pöck having recent (or any) North American experience, it’s safe to say these players don’t quite match up to others in the tournament.
  • That said, they seem capable of moving the puck, averaging nearly half a point per game.  This ought to be useful when transitioning the puck up-ice and letting the puck do the work against superior talent.

GOAL

To evaluate goalies who haven’t played in the NHL, the number most indicative of actual ability is likely save percentage.  Anything over .910 could be considered solid goaltending at the least (NHL average is .917).

AUS GOAL - SV%

 

  • Bernhard Starkbaum is the class of the group here, having statistics that are well clear of his compatriots while also putting up strong numbers in various decent European leagues.  Aside from the NHL forwards, Starkbaum might be Austria’s best player.  With numerous games for Austria under his belt previously, he’s no stranger to the international stage.

CONCLUSION

With 2 games down for the Austrians already in this year’s tournament, things are looking pretty bleak for the team.  They have scored four goals, which for a first-time Olympic team isn’t bad, but three of those came courtesy of Michael Grabner.  At the other end, they’ve allowed 14 goals, surrendering 6 to Canada and 8 to Finland.  They are not the only team yet to have won a game, but they do have by far the worst goal differential, and at this point are pretty much dead in the water.  They may challenge Norway for a victory in their next game, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Follow Chris on Twitter, and whilst you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk.

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